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'Baby Holly,' missing child of Florida couple murdered in 1981, found alive at age 42

Loved ones of Tina Gail Linn Clouse and Harold Dean Clouse Jr. have been wondering for decades what became of their baby; she has been found alive and well, officials said,

Cold case investigators have located the adult daughter of a Florida couple found slain in 1981, whose baby ended up in the care of a "nomadic religious group," officials said Thursday.

The identities of two bodies found in a wooded area in Houston in 1981 had been unknown until last year, when genetic research finally determined that they were Tina Gail Linn Clouse and Harold Dean Clouse Jr., Texas prosecutors said.

The couple's young daughter, however, wasn't found near her parents' remains, officials said.

"The Linn and Clouse families have been searching for answers concerning the welfare of the Clouses and their daughter, Holly, since they were last heard from in 1980," the Texas Attorney General's Office said in statement.

Image:
From left, Debbie Brooks, Christopher Casasanta, Donna Casasanta, Cheryl Clouse, Les Linn and Tess Welch embrace and pray at the gravesite of their loved ones Harold Dean Clouse and his wife, Tina Gail Linn Clouse, in Houston on March 1.Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle via AP

"Baby Holly has been located alive and well and is now 42 years of age. Holly has been notified of the identities of her biological parents and has been in contact with her extended biological family and they hope to meet in person soon."

Texas prosecutors revealed that Holly was eventually dropped off at a church in Arizona by two barefoot women in white robes who said they were members of a “nomadic religious group" that ate only vegetables and shunned leather products, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster told reporters.

"The women had indicated they had given up a baby before, at a laundromat," said Webster, who didn't name the religious group, which he said had been seen in Arizona, California and "possibly Texas."

"The family that raised Holly are not suspects in this case," Webster added.

In late December 1980 or January 1981, the couple's family said they got a phone call from a woman calling herself "Sister Susan," claiming the two had joined her religious group and wanted to cut off all family ties, Webster said.

"They wanted to return Tina and Dean's car to their family," Webster said. "They were also giving up all of their possessions. Sister Susan asked for money in exchange for returning the car to Florida, where the family lived."

The couple's family met the mysterious woman at Daytona International Speedway, along with police, Webster said.

"The family described meeting two to three women and possibly one male, and once again these women were wearing robes and appeared to be members of this religious group," Webster said.

"The police reportedly took the women into custody, but there's no record of a police report on file that has been found as of yet. Given the age of this case, that is common. We're still in the hunt for that police report," Webster said.

A spokesman for the Daytona Beach Police Department, the agency that would cover the race course, said late Thursday afternoon that his force hasn't been in contact with Texas investigators about the matter.

The red 1978 AMC Concord that was returned to the family was the couple's car, and Texas authorities believe they were murdered in December 1980 or early January 1981.

The couple, whose bodies were found off Wallisville Road in Harris County, last spoke to their families in late October 1980, when they were living in Lewisville, Texas, north of Dallas, Webster said.

The murder case remains unsolved, and prosecutors said they hope publicity about the case will spark new clues.

“Thank you to all of the investigators for working so hard to find Holly," Holly's grandmother Donna Casasanta said in a statement released by prosecutors.

"I prayed for them day after day and that they would find Holly and she would be alright."